Swiss Wine Festival is a huge success under sunny skies and hot temperatures

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The 2008 Swiss Wine Festival began last Thursday evening with temperatures soaring near 100-degrees; and after sweltering days on Friday and Saturday; some relief came on Sunday as events were held under nearly perfect conditions.

But the weather was only a small part of this year’s Swiss Wine Festival, as high temperatures didn’t mean small crowds. Festival attendees came to the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park each of the four days of the festival, enjoying the events and entertainment along the riverfront.

Thursday night got started with the “4-Paws Doggie Pageant” that was sponsored by the Swiss Friends of Animals; and after the Little Swiss Polka Dancers and the Edelweiss Dancers held the first of their three performances; the Little Swiss Miss and Little Swiss Mister pageant was held, with Shallyn Thomas and Dylan Jenkins earning the crowns.

The opening ceremonies were then held, with festival president Kirk Works introducing the members of the board of directors and the volunteers for this year’s festival.

The night was capped off with the Edelweiss Teen Princess pageant, and junior Ashley Poling won that title from a field of 11 contestants.

A highlight on Friday night was the lighted boat parade, with vessels covered with lights moving along the Ohio River. At the courthouse on Friday night, a candlelight prayer service for accident victims Rick and Laci Daugherty was attended by over 200 people.

Saturday dawned with some rising temperatures, and the annual 5K River Run/Walk saw participants covering the route, which ran through Vevay. Water stations and patrolling volunteers made sure that everyone made it through the event safely.

The Grand Festival Parade kicked off at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, and was led by Grand Marshal Braden Burk, fresh off of representing Indiana and Switzerland County in the Hershey Track and Field Games in Pennsylvania.

The Switzerland County High School band was again a big hit; and several floats graced this year’s parade, with entries ranging from the FFA to the Little Swiss Polka Dancers to a special float giving get well wishes to Laci and Rick Daugherty.

Local loonies Robert Findley and Edsel Detraz broke up the parade crowd with their interpretation of “Going Green”; with recycled plastic bottles and recycled parts of past floats being utilized in an “environmentally friendly” float design.

The 3-on-3 basketball jamboree started on the park’s basketball courts in the afternoon, and players didn’t seem to have too much trouble dealing with the hot conditions.

The grape stomp competitions are always a crowd favorite, and this year was no exception. Large crowds saw many participants in the stomp, with ages ranging from the very young to the young at heart.

One of the most unique and unusual performers at this year’s festival was the “Joy Unspeakable” living statue, which made an appearance on Saturday and Sunday. Large crowds gathered around the performer, who resembled a white limestone statue of a person flying a kite on Saturday; and a bronze statue of a businessman late for a meeting on Sunday.

Saturday wrapped up with another outstanding performance by “Hot Wax Show Band”, and the fireworks over the Ohio River also got rave reviews from the overflow crowd.

The canoe races on Sunday afternoon saw multiple entries in all of the categories, including many canoes in the Open Class event.

The junior high school cheerleader competition had four entry – with the Switzerland County squad winning the event from a field that included Owen County, Kentucky; New Washington; and Milan.

The high school cheerleading competition had six entries and filled the amphitheater with supporters.

The squad from East Central High School emerged as the winners; followed by South Ripley in second place and New Washington in third.

Also competing were Switzerland County, South Dearborn, and Gallatin County. The Switzerland County cheerleaders had an impressive routine, and certainly had a large number of supporters at the contest.

Overall the 2008 version of the Swiss Wine Festival was a great one – truly “Where the Fun Flowed” – and as booths and stages continue to be dismantled this week; organizers and volunteers are no doubt thinking about what can be done bigger and better for the 2009 version.